The unemployed and families headed by single parents were most at risk of poverty, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden announced.
But there was a clear difference across Germany's 16 states. Nearly one in four people in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania were in danger of being impoverished, as were more than one in five people in the city-state of Bremen.
But in the wealthier southern states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, the figures were just 10.2 percent and 10.8 percent respectively.
There was also a clear east-west divide, with 19.5 percent of people in the former communist eastern states at risk of poverty compared with 13.1 percent in the west.
People at risk of poverty were defined as those getting by on less than 60 percent of the average income in Germany.
A separate study found that, five years after the introduction of the so-called Hartz IV system of unemployment payments, people receiving the long-term benefit have a poor chance of ever having a normal working life.
“Getting out of Hartz IV still happens relatively rarely,” wrote the Nuremberg Institute for Employment Research (IAB).
The system, under which unemployment and social welfare were amalgamated, effectively slashing the benefits available to the unemployed, came in on January 1, 2005.
About three quarters of people receiving long-term unemployment benefits stayed on them for at least 12 months. Of those who managed to get off them, about half found a new job, about 14 percent moved into study. Another 6 percent went onto a pension and 6 percent became house wives or house husbands.
Others went off the benefit to be supported by a partner.
The progress of the Hartz IV reforms has been monitored by the IAB, which is the research institute for the Federal Employment Agency.
IAB director Joachim Möller spoke of a “cautiously positive Hartz IV assessment.”
In general, the goals of the employment reform had been reached. However, there was still a problem with support and supervision of the long-term unemployed, he said.
Investigations by his institute showed that the funding for people affected was often not properly targeted.